It seems like every week the biggest names in fast food have something new coming down the line. This week McDonald's, Wendy's, Arby's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, and Taco Bell are releasing or bringing back fan-favorite items. Sometimes, the items are tweaks on the traditional, like the Smoky Quarter Pounder with Cheese, other times they are old favorites everyone knows will return, like the Mexican Pizza. But are they ever worth it? When Wendy's decided to release four all-new limited-time items this week with such delicious twists, I had to try them.
The chain's two new sandwiches, which debuted yesterday, are riffs on its classics. The Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich and Italian Mozzarella Burger are like the originals with an irresistible Italian twist. Both have marinara, mozzarella cheese, and a special fried mozzarella patty between the protein and garlic-knot bun. Special Garlic Fries and a brand-new Peppermint Frosty joined the release.
I tasted the new menu items and here they are ranked from my least favorite to the best, and there was one thing I'd get again in a heartbeat.
Italian Mozzarella Burger
The Look: In terms of looks, the burger was a bit dwarfed by the large, herb-flecked garlic knot bun. It just wasn't as appealing as the chicken sandwich. I couldn't see the mozzarella and marinara sauce hinting at what was to come, while the chicken sandwich had a huge chicken breast with melted mozzarella sticking out the side.
The Taste: I missed the mozzarella patty at the first bite—the thing I was most excited to try—but the square Wendy's burger was good, meaty, and flavorful, with a nice texture. The marinara sauce didn't pop over the flavor of the meat, and the mozzarella was a bit muted as well. The garlic knot bun did have remarkable flavor and wasn't too soft or too firm. On the second bite, I got a bit of the cheesy fried mozzarella and more marinara. I couldn't detect a lot of Italian spices, I think the burger's flavor overwhelmed them.
The Look: The shake was a lovely shade of light pink and super creamy. I had never had a Frosty before, so I assume most Wendy's fans know that these things are super thick. The Frosty was so thick it was hard to drink with a straw so I grabbed a spoon, which wasn't a bad thing at all.
The Taste: If you are a true peppermint fan you might miss little pieces of the candy floating in the drink, but I didn't. It was vanilla and subtle peppermint that doesn't burn the palate, it was refreshing but rich at the same time. I liked the Frosty way more than a McDonald's shake. It tasted less cloyingly sweet and more balanced.
The Look: The fries came in a special container so they wouldn't get squished, which already made them seem more special that the chain's other fries. There was a little slick of garlic-herb oil on the bottom of the container that you could drip the fries into.
The Taste: The fries stayed subtly crispy on the outside with a nice potato flavor inside. The garlic was not over the top and included a few flecks of green herbs. The good news is you probably won't be reeking of garlic all day after these.
These fries really are made to look more like restaurant fries than fast-food fries, and I think that is the only problem. Some people want the classics when they are getting fast food. They don't want their fries in a fancy container, they want to be able to eat them one-handed while driving. That being said, the flavor was great and these are a step above fast-food fries for sure.
Just be aware that this order of fries with its extra garlic oil has 470 calories—as much as Wendy's large fries.
Italian Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich
The Look: My first thought was that this chicken sandwich is huge. It was so big that it was hard to bite. The garlic knot bun looked inviting and, as I said above, the chicken and mozzarella were peeking out just enough to catch your attention. The chicken looked crispy and golden brown. I couldn't wait to take a bite of this one.
The Taste: The tomato sauce was tangy, if a tiny bit too sour, but the cheese and chicken add a beautiful salty-creamy counterpoint. The first bite didn't give me the cheese pull I wanted from the fried mozzarella but the second did. As I continued to chew I tasted Italian spices and garlic. The marinara didn't squirt out of the sandwich, it was just the right amount, which is good for people eating it on the go. I'm guessing the middle super thin layer of mozzarella was a glue of sorts because, with the uber-thick mozzarella patty, you really didn't need it. As I got to the middle the flavors melded with more sauce mixing with creamy cheese.
This is a filling beast of a sandwich with some very high-end touches that, like the fries, make it seem fast from a typical fast-food offering. Honestly, all I needed was a mixed green salad and balsamic on the side because the Garlic Fries would really have been far too much food—and far too many calories as the chicken sandwich alone has 780.
The star of the show, for sure, was the fried mozzarella. Fast food restaurants need to add a fried mozzarella sandwich stat for the vegetarians of the world. This is a great alternative to grilled cheese, even though it isn't exactly the healthiest thing in the world.
The Final Verdict
Overall, these items did not look or taste like typical fast food items, they seemed to be of higher quality and made with care. The caveat is that the person making them that day was being trained on how to make them correctly, so the presentation could change in a few weeks.
While everything was good, it's clear there's one item, in particular, I'd go back for: the chicken parm-like sandwich. A few bites of the garlic-oil-slicked fries were enough and the Frosty, though delicious, was too much on top of a sandwich. If you are less adventurous, the burger would be the way to go as you'll still get the luscious mozzarella patty but fewer competing flavors. In my opinion, chicken, sauce, and cheese are just more friendly than beef, sauce, and mozzarella.